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More Employers Offering Wellness Programs, Survey Finds

Absenteeism related to poor health costs the economy billions in lost productivity.

By University Alliance on April 17, 2015
Employers See Wellness Programs as Rx for Savings

More workers are jumping at the chance to take advantage of company-sponsored wellness programs, according to the annual Strategic Benefits Survey published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Organizations believe such programs can be effective tools for finding and keeping talented workers, SHRM’s director of survey programs, Evren Esen, said in a January 2015 statement.

Each year, workplace absenteeism as a result of poor health costs the U.S. economy about $84 billion, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The lost productively is felt across all occupational levels, from fishermen to physicians, and cost employers an average of $341 a day as of 2012.

The Well-Being Index measured workplace absenteeism caused by being overweight or having chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Companies are boosting the use of wellness initiatives to combat the problems of lost productivity. The SHRM survey found that 76% of organizations offered wellness programs during 2014, up from 70% the previous year.

Meanwhile, among organizations that offered wellness programs, 53% of survey respondents said employee participation had risen during the previous 12 months.

Among the other findings of the Society for Human Resource Management survey:

  • 72% of organizations said wellness programs helped lower their healthcare expenses, up slightly over 2013
  • 78% of respondents said their wellness initiatives were “somewhat” or “very effective” in improving employee health, a year-over-year increase of 2 percentage points
  • 67% of organizations offered employees rewards or incentives for joining wellness programs, an increase over the 56% that offered such inducements in 2013
  • 85% of companies that offered incentives said they were effective in expanding participation in wellness initiatives
  • 50% of organizations with wellness programs also made them available to employees’ dependents, primarily spouses and children

The survey recommends that human resources (HR) professionals conduct analyses to gauge the return on investment (ROI) of wellness programs.

“Given an aging workforce, the importance of wellness programs is likely to continue to grow as a way to reduce the impact of chronic health conditions on productivity and, ultimately, on organizational success,” the survey noted.

Category: 2015 Headlines